My journey with Jesus has gone through various changes that have affected my faith and my prayer life. In the early 80’s, when I first learned that Jesus was not only with me but in me, living His life through me, the way our relationship changed was wonderful. I no longer thought of Him as somewhere up in the sky somewhere, but grew to know He was always right here inside me.
This new way of thinking brought about the first noticeable change in my prayer life. I wanted more than anything to exhibit Christ’s life in my daily walk and had begged and pleaded for Him to change me any way that He desired. On top my list was the plea to have a “gentle and quiet spirit.” (I Peter 3:4) One day, as I was once again asking God for that gentle and quiet spirit. I heard Him speak quietly in my heart, “You already have one. Now thank me for it.”
My first reaction was something like, “Ohhh, Nooo! Not a chance!” My emotions were screaming, but my spirit knew—Yes! That would be faith. Not only would it be faith (agreeing with God no matter what), but since it was His voice I was hearing, it would also be obedience. So I said and wrote out in my journal, “Thank you, Lord, that I have a gentle and quiet spirit.” It was one of the most uncomfortable things I had ever done because it went against all my feelings and self- evaluations
After this declaration of faith, I am certain that no one noticed that I already had a gentle and quiet spirit. That took a very long time. But I had to say it was so from then on, saying what God says, NOT going by how I felt, looked, sounded, or acted. This was faith. This was pleasing to God.
That declaration of faith was not the last characteristic I had to claim. I noted one day in Galatians 5:22-23, that the fruit of the Spirit was a singular word—fruit. Furthermore, I began to understand that the fruit is a person—Jesus Himself. As this understanding grew deeper, my prayers changed again–I could never again ask Jesus for patience (or any of the other “fruit”). If I have Him, I have patience. So my prayers became, “Thank you, Lord, I have Your patience; You Yourself are my patience. Thank you that you are patient through me in this situation.” I even had to see that He Himself is faith; the One exercising faith through me. So I had to stop asking for qualities and begin thanking Him that I already had them (in spite of appearances).
I loved all this interaction with Jesus as I practiced knowing His voice and watching my prayer life evolve. I sometimes wonder if one reason people don’t pray is because they don’t think they hear from God or know how to hear Him. I find great joy in helping others learn to pray by trusting that the thoughts they have are from Him when those thoughts are not bad, evil or condemning and the thoughts are like how Jesus would be. I’ve really seen this happen in my small group.
For the last year in my small group, we have been looking at a little booklet called Share Immanuel. I heard about the Immanuel Process at a THRIVE conference I attended in 2009. Dr. Karl Lehman, Dr. Jim Wilder and others developed this process in relation to healing prayer where one goes to, or is taken to Jesus for Him to heal painful memories. My small group, which is a very close, safe, intimate group, has been reading the booklet over and over and practicing the process together each week. We have experienced Jesus healing painful memories in under 3-5 minutes right there in group. The healing comes when the person realizes where Immanuel (God is with us) was in the painful event. He is always with us, never leaves us, but most often we do not realize He was there. When we experience His presence—in the past, present, or future– it changes things in a mighty way.
As our group consistently practices going to Jesus each week to listen, more and more we are realizing that He does speak through our thoughts. Here is a simple version of how I am leading this time:
I open in a general prayer, thanking Him that He is there.
I say for each person to find in their minds a time when they knew that Jesus was with them and sensed His presence. This can even be when one got saved. We wait quietly for a minute. Then I do one or both of the following:
I ask Jesus to take us to a painful memory that He can heal in group. After a short time I tell them to ask Jesus, “What do you want me to know about this _____________?” We sit quietly. As Jesus shows someone a memory, He then shows the person where He was in that event and what He wants to show them about it from His perspective.
Sometimes I just ask Jesus to speak to each one saying whatever He would like to say to them. This may not be about a painful memory. Sometimes we do both. We sit quietly in between questions.
I say a general thank-you prayer of appreciation then ask if anyone wants to share. Every week, someone shares. Slowly but surely more are beginning to believe that they are hearing from Jesus. It is remarkable to hear the various ways He reveals Himself to each of us.
I’m not only doing this in group, but I am also using this question, “What do you want me to know about _____________?” as I write in my journal. (The booklet encourages us not to ask “why” questions, but to use the “What do you want me to know” question). In my journal, I write out what has happened, what I’m feeling, how much something hurts, if I’m angry—whatever is going on in my life. Then I ask the question, “Lord, what do you want me to know about this?” Then I get my pen ready, expecting and trusting that He is going to speak–and then I write what I hear in my thoughts. It is so encouraging to finish my time with His words of encouragement, love, insight and comfort. Since I have been using this question, my prayer life has become sweeter.
Sometimes I ask the question during the day or night without writing in my journal, exercising my belief that Immanuel is with me and wants me to hear Him. If there is a blockage, I ask, “What do you want me to know about the blockage?” Sometimes He answers with, “You are too tired, you need someone to help you, or this it too big to work on right now.” I turn to Him in whatever is going on.
Here is an example of what Jesus said to me a few weeks ago when I asked, “What do you want me to know tonight?”
“The trip you took to the mountains was good for you—peers, friends, fun, fresh air, talk of Me and My stuff. Remember how they encouraged you. Concentrate on being who you are with strength. I like you. I adore you. I love you. I’m proud of you. You’re wonderful. You listen to me and obey me and trust me. Keep your eyes on Me.”